If you happen to spot a sheep or pony walking into an Italian hotel between November 18th and 24th, do not be surprised: farm animals are just some of the things on offer in exchange for a room for the night as part of a bartering initiative that began six years ago to help promote Italy's small hotels and guesthouses during the economic downturn.
Hotel owners have been pitching their requests on the website, en.settimanadelbaratto.it, while money-conscious guests have been touting their wares.
Many B&B's are asking for food, books and smartphones, while some are looking for more novel items to trade.
The Tre Esse di Roccasparvera, in the north-west Piedmont region, has requested “any objects relating to Disney characters from the Seven Dwarves”, while Sul Mare B&B in Quartu Sant'Elena, Sardinia, is hoping for a gramophone.
Other requests made include a beekeeping set, Coca Cola memorabilia, a tricycle, roller skates and Mickey Mouse comic strips.
Services are also on offer. One tourist – a psychologist – is offering a consultation in exchange for her stay, while others are touting everything from cleaning and gardening to lessons in English, photography and painting nails. One hopeful is also offering hoteliers advice on how to run a business and set up a website.
Tourists are reminded not to "sell themselves short or be embarrassed", but equally barters should be proposed "seriously and politely, with affability".
VillaVillaColle, a B&B in the heart of a medieval Sardinian village, was the first in Italy to start bartering. The idea soon spread to others, with thousands now taking part in National Barter Week and 800 accepting barters all-year-round.